A Moment with Amy Bucher is part of our interview series featuring thought leaders in research and healthcare. Each interview includes 7 short and stimulating questions.

Amy Bucher, Ph.D., is Vice President of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow, where she works with client organizations to craft engaging and motivating solutions that help people change behavior to achieve personal goals, especially related to health, wellness, learning, and financial well-being. For more from Dr. Bucher, follow her on twitter. And check out her new book Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change, which features an interview with our very own Head of Behavioral Science Aline Holzwarth.

1. Tell us something we don’t know. (Anything!)

When you win prizes on a game show, you owe taxes on their retail value. This means prizes can be unaffordable for some people to take, and some people who don’t realize it end up owing lots of tax money later. My grandfather was on The Price Is Right when I was a kid. Fortunately he was an accountant and savvy to the tax situation, so he only brought home one of the prizes he won.

2. Which fiction book would you recommend to researchers and innovators in healthcare, and why?

I recently loved The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. It’s just a great story. Benjamin creates deep empathy in the reader for four very different main characters while highlighting the importance of family and social context in people’s lives — something healthcare researchers and innovators need to do in their work. We have to be able to serve many different types of people so I always appreciate the opportunity to practice my compassion skills through fiction.

3. What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

I’m starting to dig in on data ethics as it relates to artificial intelligence and machine learning. A lot of personalization technology runs on algorithms, and we really have to understand and be critical of the underlying data in order to avoid biased systems. I’ve been interested in these topics for a long time but haven’t had the chance until recently to focus on them in quite this way. It’s like several threads of work are finally coming together into a tapestry.

4. Who’s doing something that you admire in healthcare today, and why is it so cool?

I really admire Dr. Megan Ranney, who is not only a practicing emergency room physician at Brown but also one of the foremost experts and advocates for preventing gun injuries. She makes the world a better place both in the here and now through the care she provides, and in the long run through the advocacy and policy work she does. Doing either one of those things would be so impressive and yet Dr. Ranney does both.

5. What’s the biggest barrier to getting things done in your line of work?

Because I work as a consultant, my team rarely has ultimate control over launching a product or service into the world. We’re working within boundaries established by our clients. That is definitely a barrier, especially when the way we might see something to fruition is different from what our clients choose to do. That said, it was a known hazard in choosing this type of role. In exchange, I get to work on a large number of exciting projects each year, embed with brilliant, innovative teams at multiple client organizations, and stretch my skills to new problem spaces and solution sets.

6. Imagine you win an award for impacting healthcare. What did you do?

I helped establish an understanding of behavior change and motivation as a basic requirement for doing healthcare design and innovation work.

7. What advice would you give innovators in healthcare?

Unlike contestants on reality shows, you ARE here to make friends. I’ve learned the most from the smart, savvy people I’ve met along the way. Reach out to people you admire and start a conversation. Read, watch, and listen to the work others are doing. Create a network of people that frequently makes you do a double take that your friends and colleagues are so insightful and amazing. And have the mental model that your network is a living, growing organism always seeking to welcome new friends.

About Amy Bucher

Amy Bucher, Ph.D., is Vice President of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow, where she works with client organizations to craft engaging and motivating solutions that help people change behavior to achieve personal goals, especially related to health, wellness, learning, and financial well-being.At Mad*Pow, Dr. Bucher combines behavior change science with service and experience design, with a focus on conducting research and translating insights to product.

Dr. Bucher’s research interests include motivational design, patient and user engagement, happiness, how social relationships influence health and well-being, and cross-cultural behavior change strategies. She is also passionate about ethics in design and research, a theme she emphasizes in her writing and day-to-day work. The digital interventions Dr. Bucher has helped design include health risk assessments, chronic health management programs, behavioral health interventions, and wellness programs. Among Dr. Bucher’s favorite projects were designing a digital and live coaching platform for people in India with Type 2 diabetes, creating a personalized 6-week cognitive behavioral therapy-based platform for people to improve sleep, researching construction worker behavior to identify motivational factors related to safety lapses, and conducting participatory design with Medicare and Medicaid members to understand their wellness needs.

Prior to her role at Mad*Pow, Dr. Bucher worked at CVS Health as a Senior Strategist for their Digital Specialty Pharmacy, and at Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions Group as Associate Director of Behavior Science. Her work at Johnson & Johnson resulted in two patents for data-driven digital health coaching methods.

Dr. Bucher received her A.B. magna cum laude in psychology from Harvard University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2020, Dr. Bucher published her book, Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change, with Rosenfeld Media. The book provides a practical how-to for weaving behavior change and motivational science into the product design and development process.


Written by: Aline Holzwarth